There are those who would pick NASCAR’s Darrell “Bubba” Wallace as their driver of choice because of his association with the iconic and legendary Richard Petty. There are those who would support his career because he is a young, black man, a pioneer in the sport of racing. And there are also those who would not support Bubba for the same reason.
But it doesn’t sound like the driver of Richard Petty Motorsport’s proud No. 43 — the same number that his team owner carried across the majority of his 200 checkered flag finishes — is as concerned about who isn’t behind him as much as he cares about who is supporting him.
After the Feb. 18 Daytona 500, Bubba was less focused on his pioneering feat of becoming the highest finisher ever for a black man. Rather, the 24-year-old driver was more concerned about making his family proud.
And while he has had his share of haters on social media, who revile the driver simply based on his ethnicity, Bubba isn’t just about taking the fast track. He’s taking the high road, too.
In an interview with “The Guardian,” the Mobile, Alabama, native says his later grandmother taught him to not only “love and take care of family,” but also to “not to let people cross you and put up with bullshit.” And that means that when those internet trolls bait him with negativity, he simply doesn’t bite. “My parents are always telling me to be the bigger person,” he says, “to never give the media anything negative to talk about. Obviously, we’re all human and we slip up every once in a while, but I have to set an example.”
And it is quite an example he is setting. While many African-American NFL athletes participated in the “take a knee” movement, protesting a variety of issues including oppression and police brutality during the national anthem, Bubba Wallace stands with his team owner, Richard Petty, who has been quoted as saying, “Anybody that don’t stand up for [the anthem] ought to be out of the country. Period.” For Bubba, though, it isn’t about following his boss or even job security. “Richard is probably the most American icon in our sport and in a lot of people’s lives,” he told “The Guardian.” “He’s coming from the patriotic side of it. That’s the way I took it. We hadn’t really discussed it, and there’s no need. I’ve always stood for the national anthem, and I will continue to do that.”
A rain delay and car issues plagued many of the drivers in Atlanta at the Folds of Honor Quik Trip 500, and gave Bubba a disappointing finish on Feb. 25, but things could have ended much worse. Bubba took a decent ding to his driver’s side quarter panel when his view was obstructed after Trevor Baynes’ engine blew, filling the track with smoke.
And, you know, he is riding with The King.